The Duke Family in Barbados
The Duke Family in Barbados
Notes by Lynn S. Teague, July 1999
The first Englishman to visit Barbados arrived there in 1620, and the first settlement was begun in 1625. In 1630 it was a very new colony, but was already the victim of several years of dispute over ownership of the island. In 1630 John Haye, Earl of Carlisle, obtained ownership from Sir William Courteen, a London merchant who had initiated and financed the earlier colonization. This did not mark the end of the question of ownership, but did mark the Earl of Carlisle obtaining practical control from Courteen.
Emigration permitted those with relatively small financial resources to live quite well in the colonies on incomes that would have left them in diminished circumstances if they lived in England. The association of the Devonshire Duke family with Sir Walter Raleigh could also have influenced an individual to consider emigration to America.
The Barbados Duke Family: Origins
Many Barbadian records were destroyed in 1666 when fire levelled the principal town of the island, Bridgetown, and a subsequent hurricane completed the work of destruction. Nevertheless, many records survive to document the history of this family.
In 1630 a land grant of 300 acres in St. Peter’s Parish was given to Humphry Duke. This was not simply an investment by an absentee landlord. William Duke’s 1741 history of the island of Barbados notes that Humphrey Duke was an inhabitant of the island in 1638. In 1657, and again in 1681, the Duke plantation appears in St. Peter’s Parish on maps of Barbados.
In Barbados the Duke family is said to have been derived from the “Dukes of Lake House, near Exeter.” This last reference is somewhat confusing, since Lake House is not particularly near Exeter, except perhaps from the perspective of Bridgetown, Barbados. However, this surely refers to the branch of the Duke of family at Otterton, which is traditionally said to be a branch of the Duke family of Lake.
Thomas Duke’s burial monument, located in the parish church, shows the Duke of Lake arms with its three laurel leaf wreathes. This is strong confirmation of the association of the Barbados family with the Duke family of Lake House. There were simply far too many close relatives and friends of the Duke of Lake family living in Barbados (among them, the Walrond and Prideaux families), and too much travel and communication between Barbados and England, for any inappropriate claim to those arms to have been socially possible for a 17th century Barbadian.
In 1584 a son, Humphry Duke, was born to Richard Duke and Catherine Prideaux Duke of Otterton, Devonshire. Rasleigh Duke, in his turn-of-the-century English family tree, refers to Humphrey’s will having been recorded on January 18, 1668, but does not list the names of his children, nor does he list Humphrey as “d.s.p.” (died sine prole, without offspring). It is possible that he found only evidence of the recording of the will, and not the document itself. More important, he did not find parish records or memorials of his burial in Devonshire.
Humphrey is unique among males in his generation who lived to adulthood in that Rasleigh Duke does not give the date of his death or of his burial, and does not say where he died or where he was buried. It is likely that Rasleigh Duke did not know, because Humphrey died in Barbados and the necessary recording of his will in England was the only evidence of his passing.
It is also especially important that Humphrey Duke’s property in St. Peters Parish is still identified as “Duke” on a 1681 map of Barbados. Humphrey died in or before 1668, and the land was not sold for the benefit of his heirs, who apparently found it more to their advantage to retain the land. Barbados did not have the absentee-landlord pattern characteristic of many colonies, and it is likely that this retention of the land was because those heirs were resident on the island.
In summary, it is virtually certain that the Barbados Duke family was founded by Humphry Duke, born in Devonshire in 1584 to Richard and Catherine Duke of Otterton, when he immigrated to Barbados to assume control of his plantation there in or shortly after 1630.
Evidence to be presented shortly indicates that at the time of his arrival in Barbados Humphry was already married, and that several of his children had been born in England. Several made the difficult journey across the Atlantic when less than 10 years old. Humphry, on the other hand, was at least 42 years old, somewhat older than an ideal age for a rigorous journey.
In 1630 John Haye, Earl of Carlisle, had won ownership of Barbados from Sir William Courteen. The transition was hard on Courteen, but far more so for the settlers. In Barbados, the years 1630-31 were known as “the starving time.” The English Privy Council found it necessary to send emergency supplies to prevent an end to the young colony. Carlisle was far less responsible, and far less aware of the needs of the new colonists, than Courteen had been. The colonists had only begun to learn the rudiments of agriculture in a new and very different land. This was very early in the history of English colonization of the Americas. The first successful settlement in Virginia was less than 20 years old when colonists set out for Barbados, and Virginia was a very different place than the tropical island of Barbados.
William Duke’s history of Barbados, although written several generations later, strongly suggests that the Duke family sympathies were with the Earl of Carlisle in the disputes over ownership of the colony. This makes sense in terms of the time of the family’s emigration. Humphry doubtless acquired his plantation from Carlisle when the control of the island first devolved to the Earl in 1630.
Later Generations: the 1600’s
Several Duke family members in Barbados are recorded in documents from the mid- to late 1600’s. The males were Henry, of Christ Church Parish; Daniel of St. George's Parish; and Robert, of Christ Church Parish. Mary Duke, who married Richard Paar; Jane Duke, who married Walter Sherley; and Penilope Lodkingson Duke were the women.
All of the men produced children. Henry had a wife, three sons, and two daughters living at home in a census ordered by the English government in 1679. The sons were 24, 20, and 12 years of age, the daughters 25 and 17. Individuals known from Barbados records for this period fit with this description of Henry’s family.
The name of Henry's wife is not recorded in the census, but a will provides a possible clue to her identity: Penilope Duke, formerly Lodgkinson, was mentioned in the will of Nicholas Murrell, "chirurgeon and practictioner in physic of St. Thomas Parish", 26 January, 1679. Although an otherwise unknown Duke might account for Penilope Duke’s husband, the only known candidate is Henry of Christ Church Parish.
The births of Henry’s children do not appear in Christ Church Parish registers, although at least three were born during the same period as Robert’s children, who are found in those records. This suggests that Henry and his family were elsewhere until at least 1668, perhaps in St. Peters Parish, where Humphrey’s plantation might have led him to settle when first in Barbados.
For the sons, there are William, who was in the militia in 1679 and later in the year went to the Carolinas; Thomas, in Christ Church Parish for the 1686 birth of his son, Henry; and Henry Duke, who later moved to St. Michael’s Parish.
Two women who are too old to have been Henry’s daughters appear in the Barbados records. First, there was Mary Duke, who married Richard Paar in 1666 in Christ Church Parish. Her age indicates that she was probably the sister of Henry and Robert.
The other is Jane Duke, who married Walter Sherley in December, 1674. Jane Duke is also recorded as having had a son, Robert, who was born in January 1674. This suggests that she was not born a Duke, but was the widow of an individual who had died, father of the infant born at the beginning of that year. Jonathan Duke, who had a daughter named Jane, was probably an older son of Jane and this otherwise unidentified Duke.
In 1687 the will of Daniel Duke, minister of St. George’s parish, Barbados, was probated. His heirs were his wife,Christian; his son, Daniel; and his daughter, Jane Duke Heysar(married). It is unclear whether there was any connection between the families of Henry and Robert Duke and that of Daniel Duke. St. George’s Parish was composed of property owned by a consortium of London merchants, and has a somewhat different history than that of the parishes where Henry and Robert lived. In addition, as an Anglican priest Daniel Duke was subject to assignment by the Bishop of London, and his presence could have been unrelated to the presence of any other family.
Family Connections in Barbados
Richard and Catharine Prideaux Duke’s daughter Elizabeth married Humphrey Walrond, son of Henry Walrond, at Otterton in 1610. In 1614, their son, to become Col. Humphrey Walrond, was christened at the nearby parish church of Ottery St. Mary. Col. Humphrey Walrond was exceptionally prominent, and disruptive, in the early political affairs of Barbados during the civil war. In England, he had given £30,000 to the royalist cause. He and his brother Edward, a member of the Inner Temple, have been described as follows:
Endowed with strong personalities, undoubted talents, and a turbulent impatience of all authority but their own, they were a disruptive influence in Barbados for the next twenty years.
The Walrond brothers had immigrated to Barbados after the 1645 capture of the royalist army at Bridgewater. This was common at the time.
With his brother Edward, a member of the Inner Temple in London (like his uncle Thomas Duke, brother of Humphrey), Humphrey Walrond provoked the suppression of pro-Parliament families in Barbados in 1650. If the Duke family was present at this time they were, however, silent through the 1650 disputes, appearing neither in the lists of Walrond allies or in the lists of those identified by Walrond as "delinquent." William Duke's later history of Barbados is notably neutral in dealing with the events of this period.
Col. Walrond eventually became President of Barbados, in December 1660, but he was removed in 1662, and in 1663 was charged with receiving £1000 from the Spanish in exchange for concessions related to trade.
Members of the Prideaux family also immigrated to Barbados, although the circumstances are unknown. They were not present in 1638; William Duke listed the individuals holding more than 10 acres and living on the island in that year, and the Prideaux family does not appear in that list. Clearly, Barbados was the destination of choice for members of the Devonshire Duke family of Lake House and their relatives during this period, perhaps in part because Humphry Duke had paved the way with his early colonization of the island.
In 1681, less than two years after William moved on to South Carolina, Richard Duke of Otterton, Devonshire, purchased property in South Carolina; this suggests another Devonshire tie to the Barbados Duke family. However, he inquired about this land in 1690 in apparent ignorance of its status and presuming that it had been left unoccupied, so that it seems unlikely that this was connected with William’s immigration to the colony.
Humphrey Duke’s plantation was in St. Peter’s Parish, Barbados, and no members of the Duke family of Barbados appear in parish records there. However, those records may be very incomplete for this period, especially given the destructive events of later years. Henry and his family first appear in Christ Church Parish during the 1679-80 census. Henry’s oldest known child was born in 1654-55, the second in 1655-56. Robert Duke is resident in Christ Church Parish from at least 1658, when his first children (apparently twins) were born.
Robert and Mary Duke and their family lived in Christ Church Parish and are found in records there dating from 1658 and later, although they do not appear in the 1679 census. The 1679 census indicates that Henry Duke owned 23 acres of land and 4 slaves there and itemizes his family, but he and his children do not appear in parish registers. It is possible that the families were seasonally or occasionally resident in St. Peter’s Parish to the north, and it is also possible that they were sometimes absent from the island for visits to England. Distant as it was, colonists did make return visits with some frequency.
In 1679 William Duke was listed in Capt. Ely’s Company of Foot, Barbados Militia Roles. Henry Dukewas in Col. Newton’s Regiment of Horse, with one horse. At this time Barbadian planters were required to provide one militia participant for every 10 acres of land that they owned. Henry, with 23 acres, had to provide two in Christ Church Parish. He himself filled one of those positions and William filled the other.
There is no indication in the census that any member of the family fulfilled a militia obligation for the Duke property in St. Peter’s Parish. However, it was customary to hire workers to do this when family members were not available. With the property located at the far end of the island from the principal town, it might have been judged best to employ others to fulfill parish militia responsibilities there.
William Dukes (this is the first appearance of the terminal “s”) went to Charles Towne from Barbados in April, 1679. The William Duke who had previously appeared on the Barbados militia roles with Henry Duke does not appear again in records of that island.
However, many members of the Duke family stayed in Barbados after 1679, and through the years they occupied positions of local social and political importance. Thomas became Treasurer of Barbados. His inscription at St. Michael’s Cathedral reads “Thomas Duke, Esq./ Treasurer of this Island/Ob. April 13 An. Dom. 1750. AE 53.”  Members of the Duke family intermarried with the Alleyne, Bell, Harrison, Worrell, and Grant families, all of them prominent in local affairs. The Rev. William Duke L.L.B. was the Rector of St. Thomas 1758-1786 and Chaplain of the Barbados Assembly. He was the son of William Duke, Clerk of the Barbados Assembly (d.1765), and he was brother of Henry Duke, Solicitor General of Barbados.
Conclusions and the Evidence
Much of the evidence from Barbados is circumstantial. No where has there been a document, a parish register or will, that clearly states that Henry Duke was the son of Humphrey or that William Duke who sailed to Charles Towne in April 1679 was Henry’s son. However, the circumstantial evidence is strong. First, we know that Humphry Duke obtained a land grant in Barbados in 1630, and lived there by 1638, leaving in England only a record of the proving of his will more than thirty years later. He is the only member of the Duke family who can be identified in the early years of Barbados settlement, of an age suitable to have fathered the individuals who appear later.
Subsequently, Henry Duke, born in about 1621, was known to have had two adult sons living with him in Barbados in 1679. Because he owned 23 acres of land, he was known to have been required to provide two individuals for the local militia. He and William Duke are, accordingly, listed in the militia in 1679. In 1679 William was a relatively young man (he lived until 1726), and would fit the census description of either a son of Henry’s 24 or a son 20 years old at this time. After 1679 there is no reference, however, to Henry’s son William continuing to live in Barbados. The logical inference is that this is the William who sailed to Charles Towne.
There are ways in which this chain of inference could have gone wrong. Perhaps one of Humphrey’s brothers (Thomas is the only likely candidate) had one or more sons who joined their uncle in the colony. Perhaps some other complexity intervened, but this seems less likely than the reconstruction presented here.
On the other hand, it has not proven possible to document the presence of this William Duke in South Carolina. Whatever his fate, he does not seem to have been the founder of the Duke family of the South Carolina lowcountry.
Other Family Connections
The following information was provided by Joe Lineberger:
Thomas Farrar Gent. of the town of St. Michaels. 18 April 1702. RB6.37, p. 440. Bro. Francis Farrar; Mary Macollin, dau. of Allen Macollin, decd., my wf Hannah Farrar, Etrx; my friends Benjamin Cryer Esq., Capt Joseph Skeen, Capt. William Battin, and Roger White - Asst Xtrs; cousin Sarah Waight. Wit: Henry Duke, Tho. Hinkinson, Tho. Poore. Recorded 1 May 1702.
Berkley Fisher now residing in Bdos. 13 Aug 1700, RB6/43, p. 58. ...bro William Fisher and his wf Deborah Fisher* my sis; neice Abagall Marshall; money in the hands of Thos. Cole and Thomas Duke at James River in Chickahominy, Province of Virginny; bro William Fisher - Xtr. Wit: Jno. LeGay, Wm. Lince, William Wilson.